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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 December 2007, 16:55 GMT
Stade Francais 12-6 Blues
Xavier Rush
Cardiff Blues' Xavier Rush goes for the Stade try line
Stade Francais (9) 12
Pens: Hernandes (2), Skrela (2)

Blues (3) 6
Pens: Blair (2)

Stade Francais held off a late onslaught from Cardiff Blues to go top of Heineken Cup Pool Three in Paris.

Two penalties each from Juan Martin Hernandez and David Skrela kept the Blues at bay although Ben Blair's kicks helped the Welsh pick up a bonus point.

But poor handling near Stade's try-line cost them the chance to snatch victory.

Skrela dragged a kick wide on the hour and the Blues went down the other end and twice drove from line-outs, only to miss out through poor handling.

Hernandez, making his first Heineken Cup start of the year, opened the scoring after Blues wing Gareth Thomas was penalised for being offside.

The Argentine had earlier missed a kick from 50m but had no problems from closer range.

Blair got the Blues level on 22 minutes after Stade cynically killed the ball 30m out as the visitors found themselves in a great scoring position.

But they were then dealt a blow, losing fly-half Nicky Robinson as his thigh injury flared up on his return from a spell on the sidelines.


Stade took advantage and won themselves another penalty after Gareth Williams was adjudged to have blocked Rodrigo Roncero in front of the posts.

Hernandez made no mistake, but that was his last contribution after limping off with a groin strain and his replacement Skrela made it 9-3 at the break with another kick.

Stade, who boast a formidable home record, had to play against the wind and driving rain at the start of the second half.

But they looked more dangerous on the attack and got themselves further ahead after the restart when Jason Spice gave away a penalty for a high tackle.

That seemed to give the Blues a wake-up call and they forced Stade into a mistake on their own try-line.

Skrela first dropped the ball and then tackled Spice before he could get hold of it.

From the scrum Xavier Rush drove towards the line but the Blues lost their composure by knocking on themselves.

They did reduce the deficit to 12-6 moments later, though, as Blair kicked from in front of the posts after an offside.

The visitors kept pushing in the closing stages but Stade defended brilliantly and held out for the win.

Despite the defeat, the Blues stay second in Pool Three and are still in contention to qualify for the knock-out stages.

  • Stade No 8 Simon Taylor:
    "European games are all massive. We were hanging on by our fingernails and were under a lot of pressure in the last 20 minutes.

  • Cardiff Blues No 8 Xavier Rush:
    "The boys did all that was asked of them. We couldn't get a break, and Stade defended well... but it's not really a disaster.

    "We're looking forward to the rematch back at Cardiff Arms Park. Both sides felt each other out today and we'll be ready for the rematch."

    Stade Francais: Corleto; Saubade, Messina, Liebenberg, Arias; Hernandez, Fillol; Roncero, Szarzewski, De Villiers, Milton, Pape, Burban, Martin, Taylor.
    Replacements: Skrela for Martin Hernandez (37), Blin for Szarzewski (67), Marchois for Pape (73).
    Not Used: Montanella, Ledesma, Albouy, Glas.

    Cardiff Blues: Blair; J Roberts, J Robinson, G Thomas, James; N Robinson, Spice, Jenkins, G Williams, G Powell, Jones, Tito, Molitika, M Williams, Rush.
    Replacements: Rees for N. Robinson (25), Filise for G. Powell (55). Not Used: R. Thomas, Yapp, Morgan, A. Powell, Shanklin.

    Att: 8,972

    Ref: David Pearson (RFU).

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